Kind of a touchy subject for translators. Language is no longer a conversational barrier. There are a hundred different ways to communicate that don’t involve learning a second language. Imagery and the “common cause” connect cultures in ways that never existed before the internet. You can even get earbuds that translate in real time, while you are having a conversation. It’s a touchy subject, because in theory, language technology is doing what translators rely on for income. Very basic translation is completely free, if you have access to the internet and don’t mind Google collecting your data.
Technology is, after all, a massive part of our growing world. Are we going to look at contemporary art in a hundred years’ time and see smartphones featuring in some of the most important political and cultural depictions? Technology is a tool, and it can be utilised to enhance existing offerings and services. Screens are our window onto industries that wouldn’t exist without the internet. According to Wikipedia, “The service sector consists of the production of services instead of end products. Services (also known as ‘intangible goods’) include attention, advice, access, experience, and affective labor. The production of information has long been regarded as a service, but some economists now attribute it to a fourth sector, the quaternary sector.” The most efficient way to trade in the information industry is digitally.
So how does this affect language? There’s a whole category of cyber-colloquialisms that have become part of everyday conversation – “trolls”, “like”, “share”, “flame”, “triggered”. They’re all real words that have acquired a set of meanings far away from their origins. This just illustrates how pervasive the technology sector has become. Nowadays, cyber-conversations are what happen at every stage between the initial expression of interest in, and subsequent follow-up of a product or service distributed via the internet.
Cyber-conversations are any kind of exchange between humans online – not face to face. Email, chat, dashboards, messaging, invoicing and receipts are all digital exchanges of information. All of them signify intangible products. Often these communications are actually the only tangible evidence of a service that a client will receive. In the translation industry, emails and the uploading and downloading of files are about as tangible as it gets. We don’t have an office or a waiting room, or nice leaflets or cups of coffee to give people. At The Word Gym, our entire tangible brand personality is depicted through digital conversations. It means that those email exchanges and invoices and receipts and follow-up services are pretty important. In fact, they are essential to the company’s entire service delivery concept. And this is true of almost all modern service companies.
There are a number of ways these cyber-conversations can operate. Emails can be saved, have files attached to them and are a commonplace facility used by most B2B and B2C industries that also use translation services. But often instant messaging, especially on social media and on corporate dashboards, is optimised for fast exchanges of information or discussions that require immediate decisions. All channels of communication are opportunities to reinforce your company’s brand voice and deliver it in ways that resonate with your clients.
Now this in essence sums up what The Word Gym does that makes it so unique. Figuring out what it is about a brand’s cyber-language that gives that brand a distinctive voice is a creative undertaking. It requires the investment of time and thought into understanding the brand, what the brand represents (the brand proposition) and which brand values must be projected into new markets using new languages. Transcreating the sum total of these brand elements into different languages, and safeguarding and showcasing the key brand values whilst being culturally sensitive, is what The Word Gym is all about. Whoops – this is starting to sound a bit like a brochure, but it’s important to understand the service before we go on to discuss how technology fits into it.
Of course technology enables faster translation of higher volumes of text. In theory, a marketeer could simply pass copy blocks through Google Translate for absolutely nothing – indeed, some companies regard this as a practical solution for e.g. websites. The technology is improving quickly, so this approach is not as risky or impractical as one might think. But the fact remains that in saturated markets where clear, refined communication is the only thing that differentiates one company’s products from another’s, the importance of thoughtful, semantically thorough, high-impact transcreation still outranks the time and cost benefits of machine translation software. As far as effective communication is concerned, while the rapid pace of technological progress is a useful facilitator, the ultimate impression still needs human curation.
The winning combination of technology and language is based primarily on two fast-evolving technologies: neural networks and translation memories. With an important caveat: Simply having and using these technologies is not enough to guarantee sensitive, high-quality transcreation. But the software does enable highly skilled, highly motivated translators to focus on the more creative aspects of their work by using neural network-based machine translation for fast drafting, coupled with translation memories for terminological consistency. The precise benefits of this combination do, of course, depend on the type of document, the content, the target audience and whether the client in question is asking for something completely new. But as language technologies develop and play a more integrated role in society, translation companies are able to spend more energy developing the most creative aspects of clients’ advertising and marketing campaigns, while spending less time on the translation of high-volume after-sales texts such as user guides, tech specs and the like.
Good news, then, for companies like The Word Gym, who specialise purely in transcreation and systematically avoid high-volume after-sales texts! The evolution of technology changes pace in similar ways to language. Adapting business solutions to approach problems in a universally holistic way is essential. Businesses are having to adopt “personalities” (the best-known businesses have always had them), and it’s more important than ever that these personalities should work worldwide. Watch this space for our February blog, on utilising the creative toolbox that is a “brand personality”.